Pau Gasol Contemplating Sitting Out Rio 2016 Olympics Due to Zika Virus Concerns

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2016

Mar 31, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls center Pau Gasol (16) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls and Spanish national forward Pau Gasol is considering forgoing the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because of ongoing concerns over Brazil's issues in containing the Zika virus.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol, who turns 36 on July 6, said, per Tales Azzoni of the Associated Press. "I'm thinking about (whether or not to go). Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."

The Zika virus is usually mild, with the vast majority of people presenting no symptoms, according to Infectious Diseases Society of America spokesperson Amesh Adalja. The presenting symptoms are typically limited to "fever, rash, joint pain and redness in the whites of the eye," per WebMD, but Zika has also been tied to Guillain-Barre syndrome—a far more severe disease that can cause paralysis.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus but can also be transmitted through sexual contact or blood transfusions. The CDC currently grades Brazil's Zika problem a Level 2, meaning travelers are to "practice enhanced precautions" when going to and from the country.

Gasol, who was a medical student before turning his attention strictly to basketball, is just one of a number of athletes who have recently expressed concern over their safety. New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, a presumed member of Team USA, told Bleacher Report the Zika virus scares him and would factor into his decision to play.

Female athletes have an even greater concern because the Zika virus is known to cause birth defects. Professor Jimmy Whitworth of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine advised all expectant mothers to avoid the Rio Olympics, per the Press Association (via the Guardian).

U.S. women's national team goalie Hope Solo told Grant Wahl of SI.com in February that she would not go to the Olympics if Zika was still a concern. However, she told Wahl in April that she planned to compete at Rio but wished the Games were moved:

It was important for me to do my own due diligence and properly assess the risk. Over the past few months, I've done a lot of research and spoken to a number of infectious disease specialists. Weighing all the available information, it's clear there are still so many unknowns and risks involved with going to the Games, but I will compete in Rio and take the necessary precautions to protect myself as best I can. I still feel it's a position no athlete should be forced into, and I'm disheartened that the IOC will not be moving the games from Manaus to at least help the risk. Knowing what we know about Zika, it's irresponsible.

Tennis star Serena Williams indicated she would make the trip to Rio but would do so "super protected," per Nick McCarvel of USA Today.

The World Health Organization rejected a call from public health experts to move or delay the 2016 Olympics, per the BBC. The International Olympic Committee has also said it does not plan on pushing the Olympics back because of the disease.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.

Related

    IT Declines Celtics Video Tribute

    NBA logo
    NBA

    IT Declines Celtics Video Tribute

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Rondo Rips Celts' IT Tribute

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Rondo Rips Celts' IT Tribute

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Lingering Questions Following Bizarre Rox-Clips Fiasco

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Lingering Questions Following Bizarre Rox-Clips Fiasco

    Dan Favale
    via Bleacher Report

    Lowry: 'I Was Back There' to Meet Simmons in Hallway

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Lowry: 'I Was Back There' to Meet Simmons in Hallway

    Mike Chiari
    via Bleacher Report